I don’t want normal to be normal

Suffice to say I neglected this blog while in New York City, and again while I had more visitors the week following that, including following them to Paris for another weekend; I’m only just this week returning to a bit of normalcy.  Normalcy has a strange definition out here, though.  Let’s review/revise what we know about normal life in the middle-of-nowhere countryside in France:

— They’re scared of snow because they’re not used to it.  School got cancelled on Monday because of four inches of snow, none of which had stuck on the roads, since it had been so warm the week prior.  The big kids (3rd-5th graders) couldn’t leave for their weeklong ski trip because it was snowing.  There’s way too much irony in that.

See? Clear roads. (Also...a palm tree covered in snow. Nice.)

— Things never happen here during the winter as a general rule, so if something comes up, it’s big.  There’s something called the Chapiteau de Mars starting Saturday and running for a week.  A big circus-type tent gets set up just outside of town for nightly music/dance/theatre performances.  People have been abuzz about this since I got here in September, but I didn’t realize it wasn’t a school function until Monday, when someone finally explained it to me.
— Most of the town can’t figure out how to use the machine at the post office, or don’t want to, because they’re too used to talking to the nice ladies behind the counters.
— Bread.  Bread is normal.  Good bread.
— I get called “pretty” by my kids because I’m blonde.  Sometimes because I’m wearing a pretty sweater or hairclip or boots, but mostly just because I have light hair.
— My landlords complain because my downstairs neighbor doesn’t come bother them with little things about the apartment, asking questions left and right like I tend to do.  They think she’s impolite for only exchanging pleasantries.
— Markets are good, and normal, thank goodness.  But the people there aren’t normal/regular.  Everyone takes unexpected sabbaticals every so often, et hop!  You’re left without the amazing sausage you’ve grown accustomed to for a month.
— It’s really hard to get anywhere.  Fortunately, the list of people who are willing to give me a lift is lengthening.  Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out who I can call more often, or at shorter notice, and I can’t keep bothering my landlords all the time.  Ardeche really should have trains like they used to.  It takes longer to get from Montelimar to Largentiere (55km) than it does to get from Paris to Montelimar (510km — yes, almost ten times more distance).
— Sometimes, I think there’s no point in cleaning.  See exhibit A, made overnight:

Somebody's been sitting on my chair!

— Apparently, I have quite a reputation here.  The lady who runs the bed and breakfast down the street says of course, she knows me, I’m la promeneuse au sac à dos (the one who walks everywhere with her backpack).  I am evidently instantly recognizable to anyone who has a car in the area, due to my blondeness and my backpack that I carry everywhere.  To be fair, she’s now offered me rides to Aubenas whenever I need them, which is pretty awesome.
— Nature is gorgeous.  It’s nice to be alone sometimes.  Other times, it gets overbearingly oppressive and I just want to go home.

And “normal” in New York City?  The definition varies depending on who you ask.  But for me, it encompasses four things: friends, things to do (including dancing), job opportunities, and English.  All of which I lack here.

I need to get back to that latter definition of normalcy.  But I need to stay here long enough to help the kids.  I don’t have a return date, yet.  Maybe by Memorial Day, I’ll be back to the USA, waving a flag for a parade, hoping I haven’t gone solely by color and grabbed the wrong country’s flag for the occasion…


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